12 Best Things to Do in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a breathtaking country with countless activities you can do to experience the cloud forests, volcanoes, exotic animals, picturesque beaches, and mesmerizing waterfalls. Choose between active adventures such as zip-lining and hiking or spend time relaxing in hot springs with enchanting views of Arenal Volcano. The next thing you will do after reading this list of the 12 best things to do in Costa Rica is booking your flight to Costa Rica.
1. Zip Line Over a Cloud Forest
One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is to go on a canopy tour over a cloud forest. In Monteverde you can find several zip lining tours to choose from. We did the Canopy Tour at Selvatura Adventure Park which has 15 different zip-line cables that guide you above the cloud forest. Make sure to book your tour ahead of time as it is possible for the tours to sell out. Another popular canopy tour is at 100% Adventure Park, which has the longest zip line in Costa Rica at 5,220 ft.
2. Soak in Hot Springs
If you are looking to relax in hot springs, visiting the hot springs in La Fortuna should be high on your list. There are a variety of options to enjoy the hot springs in La Fortuna including: Tabacón Hot Springs, Paradise Hot Springs, Titoku Hot Springs, EcoTermales Hot Springs, Baldi Hot Springs. As a free alternative, you can visit the natural hot springs river located across from Tabacón Hot Springs.
For the best hot spring experience, check out Tabacón Hot Springs. This is one of the nicer resort-style hot springs with several cascading pools offering temperatures ranging from 72 to 105 degrees as you make your way up to the higher pools. The water is true thermal water that is naturally heated by the volcano. If you are planning to visit these hot springs, it may be worth it to stay a night at the hotel since that will cover your hot springs entrance fee. Book your stay at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa in advance to make sure you don’t miss out!
These hotels are also known for their hot springs:
Read More: 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary
3. Spot Animals at Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica. Take a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park for the best experience. A guide is very helpful in spotting animals so you will get to see more. You will also be able to use their spotting scope for closer views of moneys, birds, and more. In Manuel Antonio National Park you can find Capuchin Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Toucans, Iguanas, and of course, Sloths. Visiting Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica if you are looking to see wildlife.
4. Go Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling
One of the best things to do in Costa Rica also happens to be something they recently did on Golden Bachelor: Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling. This unparalleled experience in La Fortuna takes you on a 4×4 ride into the forest where you will get to rappel down waterfalls and a canyon rock wall. While canyoning and waterfall rappelling you may get to see exotic wildlife such as toucans, sloths, and monkeys. After the thrilling experience you also get an organic Costa Rican lunch. The tour includes transportation to and from hotels in La Fortuna so you don’t have to worry about getting there if you’re not renting a car. Make sure to book the Pure Trek Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling Tour in advance to secure your spot!
5. Hike in Monteverde Cloud Forest
One of the most beautiful places to hike in Costa Rica is at Monteverde Cloud Forest. To explore Monteverde Cloud Forest you can either go on your own or book a guided tour. The are several trails at Monteverde Cloud Forest that you can walk and have the chance to see a variety of birds. I recommend starting with Quebrada Cuecha trail to the waterfall and then looping back with Sendero Tosi. You can then continue onto a bigger loop by combining multiple trails in the cloud forest.
6. See Catarata Rio Fortuna (Fortuna Waterfall)
One of the top things to do in Costa Rica is to visit the 70-meter-high Fortuna Waterfall. Make sure to purchase your admission ticket in advance for La Fortuna Waterfall on Viator so you don’t have to wait in line.
To get to the waterfall you will walk down about 530 steps. If conditions allow, you have the option to swim in the pool the waterfall drops into or in the Fortuna River, so don’t forget your bathing suit. Take in views of the rainforest and the native plants as you make your way back up the 530 steps. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes and water!
Read More: La Fortuna 3-Day Itinerary
7. See the Blue Falls of Costa Rica
One of the top things to do in Costa Rica is to see Catarata Río Celeste at Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. At this park you will follow a trail through the rainforest to a bright blue waterfall, lagoon, and river.
On the hike you may be able to see animals such as toucans, woodpeckers, coatis, and more unique birds. There are about 200 steps to get down to Catarata Río Celeste, the bright blue waterfall that this park is most known for. You cannot swim in this water but you can enjoy views of the waterfall as you make your way down the stairs and onto the designated platform. If you have a rental car you can drive 1.5 hours from La Fortuna to see the breathtaking waterfall or book an organized tour with transportation.
8. Hike to an Incredible View of Mount Arenal
Mirador El Silencio is a nature reserve with beautiful hiking trails through the rainforest. A 3-mile loop takes you to a 1968 lava flow and rewards you with unmatched views of Arenal Volcano. There are different paths you can take through the rainforest to get to the viewpoint and back. There is a small entrance fee required, and you will get a detailed map that shows the different trails you can take.
Another spot where you can hike to a viewpoint of Arenal is at Arenal Volcano National Park. There are several hikes to choose from, including a hike that guides you through a lush forest to a viewpoint of Arenal. The best trail at Arenal Volcano National Park is to the Lake Arenal viewpoint where you can get a nice view of Arenal Volcano towering over the lake.
9. Walk on Hanging Bridges in a Rainforest
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges has a 3.2 km trail where you can take a nice walk through the rainforest and see views of Arenal. You can pay for the entrance fee and explore the park on your own, or you can book a guided tour to see more animals and learn about the animals and plants in this rainforest.
10. Go White Water Rafting
If you have never been on a white water rafting adventure Costa Rica is the place to do it. If you have already experienced the thrill of white water rafting you know how incredible it is, and you can’t miss the opportunity to do it Costa Rica. In La Fortuna, you can go on an exhilarating adventure on the Upper Balsa River White Water Rafting Class 3/4.
Along the white water rafting adventure down the Balsa River you will get to take a break, swim, and snack on Costa Rican fruit. After the rafting trip, you will get a traditional Costa Rican lunch at a local restaurant. The tour also includes transportation to local La Fortuna hotels, all equipment needed, and towels.
11. Hike in Reserva Bosque Nobuso, Santa Elena
If you are visiting Monteverde don’t miss Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena, where you can see unique birds as you walk through the cloud forest. It is significantly less busy here than Monteverde Cloud Forest and there are several trails you can take with varying lengths and difficulties.
12. Learn About Costa Rican Chocolate and Coffee Production (and Taste!)
If you want to learn more about coffee and chocolate production in Costa Rica, consider doing a tour. Two places where you can find chocolate and coffee tours are in La Fortuna and Monteverde.
In La Fortuna there are a few tour options, some only focusing on chocolate and others where you can also learn about coffee and sugar. On this Rainforest Chocolate Tour, you will visit a farm where cocoa is grown, processed, and produced. You will learn about the history, culture, and traditions of chocolate while getting to taste the chocolate. This is the perfect tour for a chocolate lover!
If you also want to learn about coffee, book this Craft Specialty Coffee and Chocolate Tour. You will visit a family-owned farm near La Fortuna where you will learn about how coffee is grown, roasted and ground.
In Monteverde you can find the Don Juan Coffee, Chocolate and Sugar Cane Tour that walks you through the process of producing chocolate, coffee, and sugar cane. You will also get to taste each product as you learn about how it is made. We loved this tour and it was easy to fit into our schedule while in Monteverde since it is under 2 hours.
Another unique place to visit a coffee farm is in Salento, Colombia. Checkout our guide to two days in Salento
When to Visit Costa Rica
The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season which runs from December through April. If you are looking to travel when it is less busy and you are okay with some rain, May and June would also be a good time to go. Avoid visiting Costa Rica between September and November as this is height of the rainy season. During this time it can rain heavily for several hours which will make it difficult to explore Costa Rica.
How to Get to Costa Rica
There are two main international airports in Costa Rica that have direct flights from many United States cities. Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) is located near San Jose and Liberia International Airport (LIR) is in Guanacaste.
Travel Hack: Sign up for Going to get cheap flight alerts and find a flight deal to Costa Rica. We bought a nonstop round trip flight from LAX to Costa Rica for $260 after we were got a notification from Going about this deal.
How to Get Around Costa Rica
The best way to get around Costa Rica is to rent a car. This will give you the most flexibility and enable you to see off-the-beaten-path places in Costa Rica that would be hard to get to by bus. It is important to book your rental car as early as possible, as prices can increase.
Book your rental car on Discover Cars which compares rates across rental car companies to find you the best deal. Keep in mind rental car companies in Costa Rica will add personal liability coverage fees and other taxes, so expect a higher rate than what you are seeing while booking.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving in Costa Rica or don’t want to spend money on a rental car, consider booking shuttles through Bookaway. You can find many routes in Costa Rica and it will be significantly easier and faster than getting around by public bus.
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